“Go BIG!” has been Perseverance Theatre’s theme for this season that ends with a musical fable, “Bigfoot and Other Lost Souls,” a world premiere written by Mark Hollmann and Adrien Royce. The finale is “big” in several ways: There is the shadow of a big furry monster at the center of the set, the lead female character has size 11 feet, and the show is largely confusing. The hint in the subtitle identifying the script as a musical fable is only partially true. The show is filled with amazingly complex songs that take us many places, but this viewer didn’t find the lesson a fable provides. Perhaps the key word in the title is “lost,” because that’s what I felt at the end of the show. I will try to explain why.
Like all shows this season at Perseverance, the very talented cast is an absolute treat to watch. The 11 actors sing and dance and act with engaging energy, commitment and professionalism. Everything that happens on the stage is really entertaining. I was pulled into the performance at the top with the oh-so-true song “Lost & Found in America.” We are all feeling a little lost due to rising medical bills, higher taxes, unresponsive bureaucracies, personal failures, absent love. Character Bernie Bernstein, played by Rachel Landon, takes us on her journey that begins with the rejection of her court case filed against the company that made IUDs. That is not a typo. The character sings about intra-uterine devices and the little strings to which they are attached. I was a tad uncomfortable. Was this going to be a rant against feminine products and birth control methods? I wondered how long before Bigfoot enters the picture? Was I deceived by the show poster? Not to worry. The monster lurking in mossy forests becomes the next project the journalist Bernstein takes on. Whew!
Leading lady Bernstein travels to the base of Mount Shasta to interview a couple who claim to have seen Bigfoot. She takes with her an FBI-wanted activist she met in a health food store. Federal and local law enforcement officials chase the most-wanted individual and so we have some action and a lot of songs. In carefully crafted stories, each character has a purpose. Does this musical really need three uniformed agents of the law? Is the plot advanced by not one but three actors who play dogs, lead on leashes by these gun-toting, badge-bearing folks? Actually, the dog Jesse James is my favorite character; in this maze of characters, I found it refreshing to watch this simple tail-wagging, sappy-eyed dog played by Rick Silaj. And what does the Scottish couple wandering through the forest radioing in fake sightings of the beast add to the play? Humor? OK. But I thought their presence should have more importance.
Should I tell you what happens in the end? Like Hamlet, everyone dies. That’s not a normal ending for a musical. And actually, the story doesn’t end when everyone dies. So I did not spoil it for those of you who have yet to see the show. And please go. I think I might have missed something.
The simple set designed by Akiko Nishijima Rotch provided suggestions of locales which worked perfectly. Director Elizabeth Lucas fully utilized the set. I especially enjoyed the mountain climbing moment when actors merely climb stairs, but make us believe they are hiking up a steep ridge. The choreography by Ricci Adan and director Lucas was fantastic. There are so many different styles of songs, from hillbilly hoedowns to soulful ballads, yet the dance and movement honestly portrayed the songs. The music was excellent; so good, in fact, I thought is was taped. The live orchestra is actually below and in perfect sync with the very gifted singers. The show is a patchwork of musical styles, all done well. However, I think the array of music is another flaw of the show. There is no unifying style, no repeated theme, no consistent note, nothing for an audience to hold onto. Not yet.
Good actors in a poorly constructed script can keep a show alive for the moment, because we feel their energy and can appreciate the work. However, a play has to do something to our hearts or heads, make us laugh or cry, or think or wonder. The script has to earn our respect. This story felt like a draft not yet ready for a full production. It felt messy, mixed up, gray like the color an Easter egg turns when you dip it into too many colors or like a stew that began with home grown carrots and onions and potatoes and venison, but ruined by too many different herbs.
Here is the funny thing: I am going to see the show again. Like people who see Bigfoot, I am wondering: What was that? I need to make sure I saw something, real or not.
* “Bigtoot” runs through Sunday at Perseverance Theater.